Those who think they’ve heard every sound and device in Hans Zimmer’s film score bag are in for a surprise with this one for Sherlock Holmes, the 2009 Guy Ritchie film starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams. Zimmer has pulled off a score that rivals his finest work, yet sounds like little of it. Here, sounds are as important as instruments, and they often come from organic means -- through these cues we hear the sound of a piano being played on its side, and resembling something between a dusty upright, a children’s instrument, and a Wurlitzer -- check the opening cue “Discombobulate.” Other classical instruments are used to warped yet humorous effect -- the trombone in “I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before” is a stellar example when played against a gypsy violin, an accordion, dumbeks, and other hand percussion. The comically operatic theater mood of “My Mind Rebels at Stagnation” is quirky and dramatic. A sparely plucked banjo enters with the piano to double with the piano before being joined by a full symphony and a gypsy-polka band before shifting the entire piece into an abundantly orchestrated folk-dance tune. All musical roads lead to “Psychological Recovery . . . Six Months,” the album’s longest track at over 18 minutes. It is in some ways the cut that evokes Zimmer’s sense of the dramatic best, and yet even here there are so many twists and turns, it feels more like a suite than a soundtrack cue. As original soundtrack scores go in the 21st century, this is one well worth exploring -- wonderfully weird and full of minor astonishments and generous quirks that will endear it to listeners of many stripes.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek